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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, August 16, 2004

Traffic a key concern for 43rd district

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Perhaps nowhere in Hawai'i has new, large-scale development slammed head-on with an older established community as in the 'Ewa Beach-'Ewa area, where thousands of homes have gone up in the past decade and several thousand more are planned.


AGE: 51


OCCUPATION: Construction project manager

ONE BIG IDEA: "I'm a multi-issue candidate, but if we balance the budget, and project it out three to four years, things will start coming together. We've got to stop giving money to special interests. Yes, we have to belt-tighten for a while until we can develop other revenue resources."

• • •


AGE: 39

FAMILY: Single

OCCUPATION: Manager, 'Ewa Village Homeowners Association; small-business owner

ONE BIG IDEA: "I would legislate for funding to coordinate and establish a job center on the 'Ewa plain which will provide opportunities forÊmaritime training, union and non-union trades, skilled labor, contractors, and technology companies so our people can begin to work, live, and play in our community."

• • •


AGE: 67

FAMILY: Wife; five adult children; eight grandchildren

OCCUPATION: Legislator; director of government and community affairs, Unity House Inc.

ONE BIG IDEA: A recreation center in the district on Campbell Estate land. The federal government can be convinced to finance the project because there are so many military personnel and their families in the district. The youth need something to do.

• • •


AGE: 33

FAMILY: Single

OCCUPATION: Director of Minority Research Office, state House of Representatives

ONE BIG IDEA: "Create a non-profit one-stop call center where 'Ewa Beach residents can find out how they can help their neighbors in need. If someone in our community loses their job or if a single mother needs clothes for their kids, they can call the center and a mass e-mail will be sent out to churches, clubs and residents for immediate help."

• • •

A snapshot of District 43

The 2000 Census lists Filipinos, with 34.6 percent, as the largest ethnic bloc in House District 43, according to the 2000 Census. Those describing themselves as being of two or more races comprise 22.8 percent. Among other groups, 19.6 percent checked themselves off as Caucasian, 6.2 percent as Japanese and 4.4 percent as Native Hawaiian.

The district, which includes all of 'Ewa Beach, portions of 'Ewa By Gentry and West Loch, appears slightly on the younger side with about 29 percent of those over 18 in the area in the 2000 Census listed as between 30 and 39. The second-largest age category consisted of those between 20 and 29 at 20 percent, followed by 40 to 49 at 19 percent, 50 to 63 at 17 percent, 65 and older at 11 percent and those 18 or 19 at 4 percent.

Four candidates for the 43rd House District seat have different ideas on how to deal with that growth, specifically the traffic issue that has become nearly synonymous with the community.

One-term incumbent Rep. Romy Mindo is being challenged by two Democrats in the primary — 'Ewa Neighborhood Board members Jeff Alexander and Tesha Malama. The winner will face Republican and first-time candidate Kymberly Pine in the general election.

Al Bangasan, 74, has seen many changes since his family moved to 'Ewa Beach in 1971. Bangasan, interviewed at the Starbucks in the 'Ewa Town Center, was philosophical about the new development. "It's OK; it's kind of inevitable that change has to happen," he said.

But, like his neighbors, Bangasan has stories to tell about driving on Fort Weaver Road, which remains the only road directly out of 'Ewa Beach. Bangasan said he's glad he's retired and does not have to drive into town during peak-hour traffic, pointing out that it has taken him 45 minutes to get from his house to the H-1 Freeway entrance about five miles away.

Some relief is on its way. During Mindo's term, the Legislature approved $25.7 million for the first phase of the Fort Weaver Road improvement project that will widen it from four lanes to six. Some $24 million was set aside for the North-South Road from Kapolei to H-1, expected to be a reliever road to Fort Weaver.

But all four 43rd House District candidates, including Mindo himself, don't think those improvements will be nearly enough.

Alexander, a longtime neighborhood board member who lost to Mindo in the 2002 Democratic primary by 68 votes, called the Fort Weaver widening "a Band-Aid" remedy. He wants to halt plans to install two traffic signals for Fort Weaver Road. Longer term, he said, there are also cane-haul roads to the east of Fort Weaver that can be improved and expanded to a four-lane road and used as an alternate route into and out of the district.

Malama, the chairwoman of the 'Ewa Neighborhood Board, said the new developments should have been coordinated. "They didn't put any road connectors ... everything funnels onto Fort Weaver Road," she said. Malama wants to get the city to require the developers to link the various projects. She also wants to see a ferry service between Iroquois Point and Pearl Harbor, as well as a "zipper bridge" through the same area with lanes heading into town in the morning and headed the other way in the afternoon.

Mindo also wants to incorporate an intra-island ferry that would transport cars and people, except he would prefer to see it travel from Iroquois Point to Aloha Tower. Mindo said he fought unsuccessfully during his first term to obtain seed money from the federal government for such a project and he wants to try again. "It would help," he said.

Pine, who as an Ocean Pointe resident is the only one of the four candidates who lives in one of the newly developed subdivisions, said roads in 'Ewa Beach and elsewhere could have been improved if majority Democrats in the Legislature had not used more than $100 million from the state highway fund to pay for pet projects. She said she would work with the Republican administration of Gov. Linda Lingle to "fast-track" all 'Ewa-related traffic projects, including the North-South Road. Pine said the state could be eligible for federal breaks with a ferry that runs from Kalaeloa to Pearl Harbor.

Pine said education and crime are her statewide priorities. Too much money has been spent unwisely within the Department of Education, she said. "Let's analyze that extra billion dollars we've spent (on education) since 1996 and maybe reallocate it to more successful programs that provide results." On the crime front, Pine said she wants the Legislature to empower law enforcement officers with the wiretapping authorization and "walk-and-talk" laws they've advocated.

Mindo says education is his top state priority. He believes that changes approved by Democrats this past legislative session, which institute a weighted student formula of spending and gives principals more authority, will alleviate the school system's problems to some extent. "That really gives more leeway and autonomy to the principals," he said. Mindo said he wants the Legislature to pump more money into fixing school buildings that are in disrepair.

Malama, who lost to Willie Espero in a two-way race in the 20th Senate District during the Democratic primary in 2002, said her statewide priority is fiscal accountability. There needs to be more of a relationship between the money that comes in and the money that goes out, she said. She also wants to see more coordination between government agencies at the state level.

Alexander also believes that fixing the state's financial situation is the top statewide priority. The state should stop giving handouts to special interests, including nonprofit organizations, and seriously consider shipboard gambling and a lottery as means of raising revenues, he said.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.